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flexible accumulation

  A collection of industrial technologies, labour practices, inter-firm relations, and consumption patterns characterized by the pursuit of greater flexibility. Borrowing from the Regulation school of political economy, Harvey (1988) identifies this idea with a new regime of accumulation:

\'Flexible accumulation\', as I shall call it, is marked by a direct confrontation with the rigidities of fordism. It rests on a startling flexibility with respect to labour processes, labour markets, products, and patterns of consumption. It is characterised by the emergence of entirely new sectors of production, new ways of providing financial services, new markets, and, above all, greatly intensified rates of commercial, technological, and organizational innovation.Adopted in response to the increasing rigidities of the classical Fordist era (particularly rigid rules for the deployment and remuneration of labour, rigid, dedicated machinery, and the rigid organizational structures of large industrial corporations), these practices are seen by Harvey and others as constituting a set of responses to the productivity slowdown, increasing competition from Third World industrialization, and the saturation and fragmentation of home markets that characterized North American and European economies beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scott (1988) adds that this emergent regime is also \'focused … on the search for external economies of scale in the organization of the industrial apparatus\'. The desire to circumvent labour market rigidities and to exploit external economies has, according to Scott, produced major shifts in the geography of capitalist production, consisting of \'the twofold tendency to (a) a definite spatial re-agglomeration of production in selected areas, combined with (b) active evasion of labor pools dominated now or in the recent past by Fordist industry\'. However, while this would imply that flexible accumulation is associated primarily with \'new industrial spaces … comprehended as transactions-intensive agglomerations of human labour and social activity\' (Scott, 1988), it is also true that some firms in older industrial regions (notably within the automotive industry) are adopting more flexible methods in an attempt to respond to intensified competitive pressures. (See also economies of scope; industrial geography; just-in-time production; location theory; post-Fordism; production complex; social capital; transactional analysis.) (MSG)

References Harvey, D. 1988: The geographical and geopolitical consequences of the transition from Fordist to flexible accumulation. In G. Sternlieb and J.W. Hughes, eds, America\'s new market geography. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research, 101-34. Scott, A.J. 1988: New industrial spaces. London: Pion.



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